Revised September 2008

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Money Management: Living on Less

Food tips

  • Plan your meals one week at a time. Take advantage of specials and seasonal foods. Plan meals around featured sale items to cut food costs.
  • Make a shopping list. When you get to the store, stick to your list. This cuts down on impulse buying.
  • Buy generic or store brands. The quality is usually acceptable, the nutritive value can be the same as name brand products and the price difference can be considerable.
  • Shop for food once each week. This will save gas, time and money.
  • Shop at discount grocery stores. Convenience store prices are higher.
  • Shop alone. Other family members may want items not on the list.
  • Eat before you shop. You will be less likely to buy on impulse.
  • Check out day-old bread stores. They offer significant savings on bread and some non-bread items that are still of acceptable quality.
  • Use cents-off coupons for items you generally buy. Some stores double coupon amounts for additional savings.
  • Check out when supermarkets discount meat, produce and bakery goods as day-old goods. The quality may still be acceptable.
  • Compare prices per unit: pound, ounce, dozen or package. Take your calculator with you. Comparing cost per unit allows you to accurately compare products of differing sizes.
  • Plan a meatless day each week. Meat is one of the more expensive foods in our diet. Check your library for cookbooks having Mexican, oriental or pasta recipes, which often feature beans, cheese, peanut butter or vegetables rather than meat.
  • Use your oven efficiently. Bake more than one dish at a time. The energy savings can be used to supplement other parts of your budget.
  • Make a pound of hamburger go further by adding bread crumbs, oatmeal or tomato sauce. You are stretching a high-cost food item with lower-cost products.
  • Mix one part of reconstituted instant milk with one part of 1 percent or 2 percent milk. Again you are stretching a higher-cost product with a lower-cost one in a way that will not likely be noticed by your family.
  • Buy skim milk. The lower the fat, usually the less expensive the milk.
  • Wrap and store foods carefully to prevent waste and health hazards.
  • Plan for the use of leftovers. Millions of dollars worth of food are wasted each year.
  • Take nutritious snacks such as fruit or oatmeal cookies with you to work for break time. Vending machines can be expensive.
  • Use economy cuts of meat like chicken thighs and chuck roast. They provide good-quality protein but at a lower cost.
  • Growing your own fruits and vegetables can sometimes save money. Preserve your fresh fruits and vegetables by canning (if you already own or can borrow the canning equipment), freezing or drying.
  • Make your own convenience foods. The more convenience built into a food product, the higher its price. Check with your library for booklets or cookbooks that specialize in homemade mixes.
  • Entertain with "pot lucks," or simple, inexpensive foods such as casseroles and salads. Rethinking what we serve and how we entertain can save on company meals.
  • If your family stays healthy, you will save on medical bills. Make sure everyone eats nutritious meals. Use the USDA's MyPyramid as your food guide. Go online to mypyramid.gov and make your own food pyramid based on your size, age, gender and activity level. This is a free service.
  • Prepare brown-bag lunches when possible. Take leftovers for lunch — eating out is expensive.
  • Cut down on meals away from home. Eating at home usually saves money.
  • Take advantage of the school lunch program. This program can provide well-balanced lunches to children at a reasonable cost. Check about qualifying for reduced-price or free lunches.
  • Form or join a food co-op. Check with your Community Action Agency to see if there is a food co-op in your area. Food co-ops buy in bulk so you don't pay for expensive product packaging.
  • Use the food stamp program if you qualify. Check with the Family Support Division. Using food stamps can free up money for use in other areas of the family budget.
  • Use the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program if you qualify. This program provides vouchers for many nutritious foods. Check with your local health department.

GH3600, revised September 2008

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